Monday, October 28, 2013

The New "Normal"

First, my apologies for not writing for several weeks. It's been absolutely crazy here at the church and I've literally not had a spare moment. So much has been going on in the past couple of weeks that I don't even know where to start with this post, but I'll do my best.

The craziness started with the St. Paul's board visit 3 Sundays ago. St. Paul's has been undergoing some  major renovation for the past 10 years, and this visit was a celebration for reaching the halfway mark. Austin worked really hard on setting up things for the board to do and see that are outside of the regular tourist experiences. Somehow I got on the good side of the group and was able to tag along on some pretty incredible Roman experiences. I could write a blog post about each of them, but I don't have time so you'll just have to deal with a quick overview. Tea with the British Ambassador to the Vatican at the highest vantage point inside the walls of Rome, a private tour of the Vatican observatory (which just happens to be located at Castel Gandolfo, you know, the Pope's summer residence), a private tour of the US Embassy's art collection, a private tour of the Villa Aurora with the Princess who still lives there (Yes, I did say Princess), and more food than I care to remember.

Tea Time!
It's a shame they didn't have this during the
whole "Galileo incident"...
These chairs are only 500 years old...
The Princess casually holding a letter from
Marie Antoinette

Fr. Austin, Rev. Jennings, Me, and Bishop Pierre 
Now if all that wasn't enough for one week, the Convocation's Convention started in the middle of the week. Since there are only 9 Episcopal Churches in Europe, spread out over Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and France, they band together to make a pseudo-diocese called The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. Convention is held in a different church each year, and this year it was St. Paul's turn. It was really great to meet people from all over Europe and make some good connections. I even got to meet the Rev. Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies. She gave a great talk about the state of The Episcopal Church. Everything with the Convention went off without a hitch, which was a huge relief to the St. Paul's staff. We also had a Peace Party with the the Artisans group from the Refugee center and we were able to sell a lot of their crafts. These parties are a great way to spread information about the Artisans group and the JNRC.

Peace Party for Convention spouses

Now as you can imagine, the church staff was quite tired after such an eventful week. The church closed down for a few days last week so everyone could rest, which was perfect timing for my good buddy James to arrive from Madagascar. James has been with the Peace Corps in Madagascar for the past year and a half and this trip to Rome is the first time he's been off the island since he arrived. You can imagine that he might be a little culture shocked. James, Austin, and I took a trip up into the Italian mountains around Umbria. Just an absolutely gorgeous area. We spent a night in a town called Norcia, which is famous for two things: Pork and Truffles. The Italian word for pork butcher is norcineria, which is derived from Norcia, so as you might guess the pork is ridiculously amazing. Norcia also happens to be the town where St. Benedict was born. There's a large benedictine monastery in the town where they make beer. Beer, Pork, Truffles. Sounds like my kind of place. We also stopped in a small town called Todi, which is where all Italian restaurants in the USA come to get their stereotypical views of the Italian countryside. Ok, thats not true, but its one of the prettiest towns I've ever been to.


St. Benedict

Needs no caption
One of St. Paul's parishioners asked me yesterday how I was settling in after 3 weeks, and I told him that I was doing well, but I hadn't seen what a normal week working with the church was like yet. He replied that I had indeed seen a normal week because "normal" doesn't exist. Even though he may be pretty accurate in that statement, it'll be nice that everything is settling down now and I can get a grasp of what this new "normal" will actually be like without so many events and guests. But it has been an incredible time the past couple of weeks and I'm still in shock about some of the experiences I've been able to have. That'll do for now!

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Greetings from Roma! It's been one crazy week here in the Eternal city. Not only was it my first week here in Rome, it was also the week before the Convocation's (Diocese of all the European Episcopal Churches) Convention. If you're not familiar with convention, its basically the Congress of the Convocation (Hopefully next weeks convention is a little more productive than the US congress). Not only is it convention, but the St. Paul's Board of Trustees is convening next week as well, so needless to say there has been a lot of preparation work for these big events.


Even with all that stuff going on, I've been able to get a good feel for what the next year is going to be like, and if this week is any indication of what's in store for next year, it's going to be nothing short of incredible. Austin picked me up at the airport last saturday and took me directly to the place that everyone goes right when they arrive in Rome, The Vatican Supermarket (which happens to be right behind the papal palace). Ok ok, so maybe it's not everyone's first stop in Rome, but it was mine. You actually need a special card to enter, so it's basically the Pope's Costco. We got some fantastic prosciutto and fresh mozzarella for lunch, then headed to St Paul's.

My new home is amazing. It's breathtakingly beautiful and it's close to pretty much everything famous in Rome. I still have no idea how I scored this position, but I am extremely grateful to have done so. My new apartment is in the rectory of the Church, which is just behind the sanctuary. I have a nice little room and I share a bathroom and kitchen with the other 5 people that live on the floor. Most of the other people in the collegio are masters students at a local Catholic University. It seems to be a really nice living situation so far!

The view from my room
St. Paul's Sanctuary
This is literally a 2 minute walk from my
apartment. 2 minutes, y'all!!

In between all the sightseeing and exploring, which there has been a lot of, I've found time to work! My placement here at St. Paul's will primarily be with the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center, which is run out of the church's undercroft. It's truly an incredible and hectic experience to enter the center for the first time. Nearly 200 refugees come to the center everyday. The center serves a small breakfast and distributes some basic hygiene supplies, like toothbrushes and soap. It's basically a way for people to come get off the streets for a while and be with people that are experiencing the same struggles and hardships that they are experiencing. Many of the refugees had to leave all of their family and friends behind in their country, so they arrive in Italy and don't know a soul. I cannot even conceive of the sense of loneliness they must feel.

The Artisans Group
I've also been working with the JNRC Artisans group, which is a group of hand picked members from the center that create beautiful works of art. The pieces are sold to help raise support and awareness for the JNRC, but most of the proceeds from the sales go back to the group to help generate some sustainable income. The guys in the group are, without a doubt, some of the most incredible people I've had the honor to meet. Even though the group comes from many different countries, backgrounds, ethnic groups, and religions, they work together with a powerful sense of respect and dignity for one another that is unlike anything I've ever seen. The stories of how many of them came to Italy are nothing short of heart-breaking. I am incredibly blessed that they are willing to let me come in and work with them.

Bowls made from rolled newspaper
Necklace from newspaper
Please keep the Artisans group and all the refugees in your prayers, as they are very much in need of them. You will definitely be hearing more from me on how you all can help support the work of the JNRC and the Artisans group.

It's been an amazing first week and I am very excited to get more involved with the work here. This next week will be a crazy one for St. Paul's with the convention and board visit, but we'll get through it! Last year, I finished every blog post with the words "Sala hantle," which is Sesotho for "Be well." I'm not sure what the correct Italian phrase for that is, so I'll figure that our before next time. Until then, be well!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What do you mean I'm leaving again?

Greetings from the good ol' US of A! Wherever you are right now, I hope that you are doing well. It seems like it was just last week that I left St. James in Lesotho and started the week of traveling to get home, but when I look at a calendar it seems as though that was almost 2 months ago. Go figure, right?

It's been nothing short of wonderful to be home. I cant tell you how nice it is to see my family, even if just for a short time. I wont go into to all that I've done, but you can take a look at the photos below and get the gist of it. Basically, its been a perfect little slice of Americana.

Also, you may have noticed that the title of this blog has changed! New placement = new title! But everything else about my blog will stay the same. You can still find all of my posts from Lesotho in the blog archive.

It's crazy to think that I will be getting on a plane on Friday and head to Rome! What? It's literally been one of the fastest months I've had in a long time. Thanks to everyone who showed me some love while I've been home. It was short, but it was sweet. Thanks all for continuing to support me during the coming year! Much love, y'all!